That Will Never Work


As a follow-up to my post last week “60 Excuses for a Closed Mind”, I give you the following statements.  Each of these statements is a prediction of the future in an area by people in that area.  Let us just say that the future turned out a little differently.  Like my “Collection of Sayings” and the “Excuses”, I have gathered these “predictions” over time.  When it was possible, the person who said it and the year it was said are listed.

While we will most definitely get a laugh out of some of these “predictions”, let us also keep in mind that, as we face the future, what we will encounter may not be what we think we will encounter.

“Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy.” — Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859

“Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.” — Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872

“The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon.” — Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria, 1873

“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” — Western Union internal memo, 1876

“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” — Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.” — Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899

“No flying machine will ever fly from New York to Paris . . . [because] no known motor can run at the requisite speed for four days without stopping — Orville Wright (1871 – 1948)

“Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.” — Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre

“The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?” — David Sarnoff’s associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s (David Sarnoff later became chair of the Radio Corporation of America, otherwise known as RCA).

“Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.” — 1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard’s revolutionary rocket work (The Times later retracted their statement)

“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” — H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927

“Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” — Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929

“I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling on his face and not Gary Cooper.” — Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in “Gone With The Wind”

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” — Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

“Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.” — Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

“I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.” — The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” — Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962

“But what … is it good for?” — Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” — Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp. in 1977

“640K ought to be enough for anybody.” — Bill Gates, 1981

“So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.'” — Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and H-P interested in his and Steve Wozniak’s personal computer

“You want to have consistent and uniform muscle development across all of your muscles? It can’t be done. It’s just a fact of life. You just have to accept inconsistent muscle development as an unalterable condition of weight training.” — Response to Arthur Jones, who solved the “unsolvable” problem by inventing Nautilus

“If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can’t do this.” — Spencer Silver on work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M “Post-It” Notepads

“A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make.” — Response to Debbi Fields’ idea of starting Mrs. Fields’ Cookies

“The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible.” — A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

The Aha! Moment


This is a sermon that I gave on October 29, 2000 for the 20th Sunday after Pentecost.  The Scriptures for that Sunday were Job 42: 1 – 6, 10 – 17; Hebrews 7: 23 – 28; and Mark 10: 46 – 52.  I am posting it because of what I am thinking about writing for this weekend.

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In every learning opportunity, there comes a time when you realize that you have learned something. You have been trying to learn something and it hasn’t been easy. But suddenly, without any forewarning, you find that you understand perfectly clear what it is that you are trying to learn. And the funny thing about it is that after you understand this new concept, it seems so simple and clear that you wonder why it seemed to hard in the first place. That moment of learning is known as the AHA moment.

It is really hard to define this moment in any other terms simply because the time and place are determined by the characteristics of the learner and what may be that moment for one will not be the same for another.

It is the same with our relationship with God. Job’s encounter with God, as we read in today’s Old Testament reading, is an example of such a moment. As Job admits in the Old Testament reading for today, before he met God, he had only heard of God. His knowledge was second hand at best but after his encounter, he knew of God because he had come to know him first-hand.

When we have a first-hand knowledge of God, our lives change. We only have to remember what it was that John Wesley said after that memorable night at the Aldersgate Chapel to understand that change. Before Aldersgate, Wesley knowledge of God and the path that he was to take had been gained through rigorous study and self-discipline.

When John Wesley and his brother Charles first came to America in the 1736 as missionaries, it was with a great amount of joy and expectation. For now they had the opportunity to show that what they had been saying along would work. No longer would they have to put up with their detractors making fun of this Methodism of theirs.

But when it was all over, their mission was a failure and both brothers returned to England. The feeling of failure was so great that Charles was literally on his deathbed. Prepared as he and his brother were with the understanding that one cannot find peace in life outside Christ, neither man felt that they had truly found the Peace of Christ. Despite their training, despite their background, neither Wesley was willing to say they trusted the Lord. But you see, when you put your faith, as it were, solely in what you have heard or read about Jesus, it is impossible to trust in Him. Trust is only possible when you have that first-hand knowledge.

Only when John Wesley let Jesus into his life, that moment know to us as the Aldersgate moment, could he write

“I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me, that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

Only when he accepted Christ as his personal Savior did John Wesley understand the direction his life was to take. By turning his life over to Christ, Wesley gained the confidence needed to make the Methodist revival possible.

That moment in life may be a subtle one, as it was for Jesus. Or it may be a dramatic one as it was for Paul on the road to Damascus. But however it occurs, it will change your life. That it changed Bartimaeus’ life is why his story is in the Gospel of Mark. It has been suggested that because Bartimaeus is named in this Gospel he did more than simply follow Jesus into Jericho but rather became a disciple of note later.

There will come a time when you might, if you haven’t already done so, have that encounter with Jesus. It is certain that there are others who will have an encounter of their own. How they come to that moment is not know to us at this time, nor it is certain that their moment will be like anything that we have encountered in our own lives. But one thing is certain, for each of us to know God as did Job, on that first-hand basis, it will be because we have allowed Jesus to come into our hearts.

It has to be Jesus and it cannot be anyone else. The point of the passage from Hebrews that we read today is that only Jesus can be the “high priest” who can intercede on our behalf before God. The point being made in this passage is that all other priests are not capable of taking on the task.

But how does one get to know Jesus? This is the question that we must ask of ourselves this day. For if there is one person in the world who has never known or heard of Jesus, it is impossible for them to come even close to a first-hand knowledge. If I may be permitted to use a chemistry analogy, Mendeleev, the developer of the “modern” periodic table was able to predict the existence of certain elements because of the gaps left in the periodic table. But he could not predict the existence of what were called the noble gases (helium, neon, argon, xenon, krypton, and radon) because there was no information on which to predict their existence. If there is nothing available upon which to make a prediction, you cannot make a prediction.

If there is no way to know of Jesus, then there is no way one can come to know Jesus. And my friends, that is exactly why we are here. So that people will know that Jesus is here in this world and in this time.

The question is how we can let others know. That is one reason why I put the note in the bulletin about reactivating “The Lamplighter.” If we are to bring the newsletter back, and we do have the resources to do so, will we have enough people to mail it to so that we can get a bulk mailing permit? It is my understanding that there must be at least two hundred people for us to get that permit. And even if everyone who is a member or a constituent member were to get one newsletter each, that would only be 113 persons on the mailing list. But that is not a practical letter because of the numerous duplicate addresses. If we are to reactivate the church newsletter, and it is my hope that we do, we will have to come up with a total of 200 addresses.

Another way that we can let people know that Walker Valley is alive and doing well is to let those who are not here today know that they are missed. Right now, we might say that we wonder where someone is but how many people actually call them and let them know that they are missed. Perhaps a call is not warranted; but a note surely is.

I know of some that are doing this and I encourage them to continue. I also encourage each of you to make a few calls. If you need someone’s number, call Sandee Scheel or me. If you feel that I need to call them or visit with them, I will do what I can. But remember the first contact must come from you, not me. This is not because I don’t have the time or the energy; nor is it because I have only a 1/4-time position. It is because the most successful way of getting people to know that Jesus is real comes when someone from the congregation makes the first call.

Why go to all of this trouble? Why take time out of our busy schedule to help someone else, when they may not want to be helped? Because, in the end, when we help one person, then all the effort that was made will have been worth it. No matter when the moment comes or how it comes, when someone has an encounter with Jesus, it changes their lives forever.

Job’s perseverance enabled him to gain rewards he never would have imagined. Remember that at the end of the book of Job, after Job had come to know God on a first-hand and he prayed for his friends, he received more than he had lost. Bartimaeus’ life changed forever after he gained his vision.

There is someone looking for that moment when life changes for them. Are we going to be in a position where we can enable them to have that moment? That is my question for you this morning.

What Are The Basics?


The Scripture readings for today are Exodus 17: 1 – 7, Romans 5: 1 – 11, and John 4: 5 – 42.

Last week I wrote about getting “Back to the Fundamentals”, of seeking and understanding the basic precepts of Christianity so that one could grow in spirit and stature. I pointed out that, in order to do this, we needed to have a basic understanding of what is in the Bible and what it means beyond a simple reading of the text.

As this week progressed, I kept hearing a commercial about a product that will remove all the toxins from your body and recharge it with ions embedded in the material. Everything in this commercial cries out “pseudoscience” or “fake!”

Yet, this is one of many commercials, or if you will, infomercials that populate the media today that promise you health and well-being but are nothing more than scams and fraud. Of course, the people who are pushing these materials are very careful in what they say so that they can avoid any sort of legal liability. But they must be having some success because how else would they be able to keep running the commercials?

If the public would only stop and think about what is being said, these types of commercials would quickly disappear. The same can be said about our political process. We as a society have become enamored with the “sound-bite”. We want to know about political candidates in short and quickly palatable pieces; we are not interested in long statements about what they will do and how they will get it accomplished. We quickly fall for the glitz and the glamour of a candidate without analyzing what they are saying. We allow campaigns to use attack ads without questioning the validity or the accuracy of the information in the ads.

I think that the major problem in today’s society is that we have forgotten how to think. Faced with our inability to think and thus analyze and evaluate, we are quite willing to let others do it for us. We will allow others to rewrite history to justify their views and, even though we all have taken history in high school, we accept the revisions because we aren’t thinking and analyzing. We are quite willing to let others tell us what the problems of the world are and how they will solve them. But their solutions often require that we give away our rights and we don’t recognize the changes.

Society’s inability to think transforms religion, whether it is Christianity or some other religion, into something entirely different. Speaking for Christianity, society tries to fit the message of the Gospel into something that will fit into the world around us. It was not meant to do so. It was meant to provide an alternative way of seeing things and an alternative way of living in this world.

The challenge for the individual today is to see the world in a different view. Christ’s message cannot be seen through the filter of today’s society; it was never meant to be seen that way. During this season of Lent, we are reminded that we are the ones who must repent, who must change the way we see the world and everyone around us. Only when we reject society’s claims about life can we truly understand Christ’s message.

There is no doubt that life in this world is grim. It is a life of bondage to the dominant culture. Our responses are dictated by this culture. It is a life of limited vision where society and culture dictate what we are to see and dictate what it is important to see. It is a life where our abilities, our identity, and our self-esteem are dictated by how well we compare and measure to others around us. If we do not conform to this view of the world, then we are considered to have problems.

For many in today’s society, God is a lawgiver and a judge. He is seen as the enforcer and the judge. God becomes the one we must satisfy. Unfortunately, there are many who call themselves Christians today who hold onto this view and do so with a stridency that borders on obsession and fanaticism. It is a view that leads to the basic tenets of what has become known as fundamentalism. It is a view that divides the world into those who believe and those who do not believe. And, in turn, it leads many people to reject Christianity and to defiantly claim that there is no God.

It is a view that places limits on what you can and cannot do. One cannot, it appears, be both a scientist and a believer. I posted a comment about the recent Florida Board of Education’s decision concerning how evolution would be taught on a liberal politically oriented website (see “The Processes of Science” for my thoughts, not the actual comment). My thoughts in the comment were dismissed by one person as mere ramblings; others questioned the validity of what I said were the processes of science. It was almost as if the moment I professed my belief in Christ, my ability as a scientist was diminished.

By the same token, the words “Christian” and “liberal” have become opposites in meaning. Christians are automatically considered conservative and fundamentalist in nature and liberals are automatically considered secular in nature. It never occurs to most people that one can be a liberal and a Christian. Or that the original message of Christ was a liberal message. Somewhere in the course of history and the changes in society, that meaning got lost.

The true meaning of Christianity cannot be taught. You can teach the history of Christianity and you can teach the history of the church. In fact, you have to do so. But, you have to be careful that when you teach, you do so in a manner that allows questions. Without the ability to ask questions, you have no basis on which to experience Christ.

The woman at the well in Samaria is shocked when Jesus asked her for a drink of water. She was amazed that He, a Jew, would even speak to her, a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans, despite a common history, simply did not speak to each other and most Jews found ways to go around Samaria when they had to travel.

One of the ways in which Jews and Samaritans disagreed was where the proper place to worship God was. The Jews felt that you had to be at the Temple in Jerusalem; the Samaritans felt that you should be at the mountain. Of course, Jesus points out that neither of these will matter in the end. Both the Jews and the Samaritans had been taught about worship but they confused where to worship with why you worship.

It is this type of thinking that was, I believe, why the people had lost contact with God. They had gotten caught up with the procedures and lost sight of the reason. If they had thought about what they were saying and doing, they may have changed their ways earlier. The signs were there but they missed them.

Jesus asked the woman for a drink of water and in return offered her the gift of the living water. The woman’s initial response was in terms of the present, not in terms what Christ is about.

We do the same. We think, too often in terms of the present and what we need now, not in terms of what our lives are to be. Some see God as the Ultimate Provider and when He does not provide what we want when we want it, we reject Him.

When the people of Israel were in the wilderness, God provided for them. Manna was given every day and each person received what was needed and nothing more. Those who took more than needed found that the extra manna quickly rotted and was useless. And on the day before the Sabbath, when they were not to gather food, those who were lazy and only gathered the manna for the one day found that there was nothing to eat on the Sabbath. In today’s Old Testament reading, the people are grumbling about the lack of water.

They have quickly forgotten about how the manna was there when it was needed and are demanding of God that He give them the water when they want it, not when they need it. God cannot be and is not the instantaneous provider who responds to our demands; He will respond to our prayers and our concerns. In today’s Old Testament reading, God leads the people to the source of water but it is named in such a way to remind the people of their questioning and the way in which they tested the Lord.

And this is complicated by those who preach a kingdom of the present, where wealth and good health are there for the asking and the message of hope has been replaced with a message of self-help and self-centeredness.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, reflects on what John wrote in last week’s Gospel. God sent His Son to save us, not condemn us. Christ’s death on the cross was so that we could have a future, so that we could have hope. Paul pointed out that we are sinners yet God loved and loves us.

We are a seeking people. We seek to find answers in this world. To find the answers, we have to start with the basics. So what are they?

First, and foremost, God loves us. The message of this love has been lost because we have tried to make it part of this world, instead of making this world a part of the message. There will be those who dismiss the message as babble or something worse; they seek in this world what they cannot find. But they cannot find it because they do not know how to look for it.

Like the people in the desert demanding food and water from God, they demand signs from God that are not there. And when the signs do not appear, they reject God and say that He does not exist. When the time comes for support and comfort in times of need and stress, they have no place to turn.

Others expect God to appear as a judge and a lawmaker who will punish those who disobey and fail to meet the requirements of the law. Bound by their own interpretations of the law, these people cannot turn.

But others will be like the Samaritan woman. They will have heard the words and they will believe. Their lives will change and the people around them will wonder why and then they will seek.

The challenge for the church today is to be there for those who seek and for those whose questions cannot be answered by the world around them. The church must also repent, must also return to what it was and what it is supposed to be.

What are the basics? As God loved us, so must we love others, even if that is not what we want to do. During this season of Lent, we are challenged to remember this and change our lives so that others will come to know this as well

Back to the Fundamentals


Here are my thoughts for the 2nd Sunday in Lent.

I have decided to try something different this week (and for the next few weeks). Instead of footnoting the scriptures, as I have done in the past, I am simply going to list them up front. The scriptures for this week are Genesis 12: 1 – 4, Romans 4: 1 – 5, 13 – 17; and John 3: 1 – 17.

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As I have noted in the past, I bowl in the USBC Open national bowling tournament. I have also noted the connection between bowling and the church (see “Bowling and the Church”).

This year is scheduled to be my 31st consecutive tournament. This is by no means a record, not even in my own family. My mother bowled in 36 WIBC national tournaments and so I still have a few years before I hold the family record.

Back in 2002, I received my award for participating in my 25th tournament and my mother was there to see me receive it. Since it was a rather unique situation for a mother and son to have such a participation history, a reporter from the local paper interviewed us. We both noted that when we were struggling, we went back to the fundamentals.

But when one speaks of fundamentals in bowling or in any other sport for that matter, one is speaking about the basic understanding of the sport. It should be the same in religion as well. When one speaks of the fundamentals in religion, it should be a discussion of the basic understanding of what one believes and what one does.

The fundamentals are the starting point. They are what you start with so that you can grow. But fundamentalism in religion has taken on an entirely different meaning and those who call themselves fundamentalists miss the point.

To me, the Bible is a living document. Its message is one that resonates throughout the ages. It grows with you and provides the means for one’s own growth. But fundamentalists speak of the Bible as unchanging and inerrant, fixed in time and meaning.

When Clarence Jordan wrote his series of books, The Cotton Patch Gospels he took original Greek translations and translated them into words that the people of Georgia could understand. Instead of faraway places that no one knew about, he put the localities on a map, the people understood. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians became a letter to the Christians in Atlanta; Paul’s letter to the Galatians became the letter to the churches of the Georgia Convention; Paul’s letter to the Ephesians became the letter to the Christians in Birmingham and so forth. Instead of writing to the Romans, Clarence Jordan wrote to the Christians in Washington. The words of the letters may have changed but their meanings did not. In his letter to Washington, Clarence Jordan still has Paul pointing out that it is faith, not an adherence to the law that brings salvation.

As I noted two weeks ago (“Where Do We Go From Here”), Clarence Jordan’s translation of Matthew 28: 19 (go into the world and make disciples of all the nations) became “As you travel, then, make students of all races and initiate them into the family of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to live by all that I outlined for you.” It makes a difference, don’t you think?

And how much trouble would we have avoided if we understood that the first syllable in Adam is pronounced with a soft “a” and not a hard “a” sound. How much trouble would the churches of today have avoided if they understood that Adam is not the name of a single man but the name for all mankind?

To understand the Bible takes more than simple acceptance of the words that appear before you. You must seek and explore what is written. There are contradictions in what is written but they are only contradictions to those who do not study the words. And when you demand strict adherence to the words, without understanding what they mean, you are just like those Paul was referring to the passage from Romans for today. Faith is more than adherence to the Law and adherence solely to the Law will not gain you anything.

It is that dilemma that faces Nicodemus when he visits Jesus that one night so long ago. For he has heard of what Jesus is doing and he has seen what Jesus is doing but he cannot understand how such things can be done according to the Law. And when Jesus tells him that he must be born again, he is further confused.

I would classify Nicodemus as a concrete thinker, one who can only explain what is in front of him in terms of what he already knows. To understand what Jesus is doing requires a further step in intellectual development, a step from concrete thinking into the realm of abstract thinking.

There is nothing wrong with concrete thinking. It serves us well in so much of what we do in our daily lives. It has been shown that we can live almost entirely without changing the structure of our thinking.

But concrete thinking is limited. It cannot explain the motion of Mars in a backward motion across a field of stars when all the other visible planets move forward. The earlier version of the solar system had the earth as the center and it made sense. The sun and planets moved across the sky in an orderly fashion. But on occasion the planet Mars moved in what we call retrograde motion; in other words, it moved backwards. To explain this within the framework of the geocentric model of the solar system took some doing. Copernicus offered an explanation that was rejected by the church and the political establishment as essentially heretical. But when Galileo saw moons orbiting Jupiter, the explanations of Kepler and Copernicus made sense and a new explanation, a new theory for the solar system was developed. It, of course, met with resistance because it was radical and it challenged the mindset of the time.

We live in two worlds, one of physical reality and one of faith. We have to have these two worlds if we are to be a complete person. We cannot live in only one of these worlds. There is a wall between these two worlds.

But too many people today are trying to tear down this wall and merge the two worlds into one. Some try to do this by creating law after law that will dictate what we are to believe and how we are to act. Others try to tear down the wall by arguing that everything can be explained by its physical evidence and if there is no physical evidence, then it cannot exist. But when you try to tear down the wall between faith and reality, you remove the completeness of the person.

What is required of us is not to remove the wall but to rise above it. Being born-again means thinking at a higher level, of thinking “beyond the walls”, or as, as George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “to think of things that never were and ask ‘why not?’”. Being born-again means transcending the wall and opening one’s life to both worlds, not destroying one or the other.

Some may disagree with my explanation of being born-again but what does it mean to be born-again if not to see the world in a different way?

This is what Jesus is telling Nicodemus. When your thinking is limited to the world around you, you can see things but you cannot explain them. And you cannot go beyond this present world if your thinking is limited. In coming to Jesus, your perception of the world changes; you see things differently.

That is, I think, what faith is about. It allows you to do many things that could not otherwise be done. It was Abraham’s faith that allowed him to move from his homeland to a new and uncharted country. It was Abraham’s faith that fulfilled the promise of mankind. Nothing Abraham saw would give him the answers that faith would. Nothing that Abraham did would guarantee the results that God promised.

Paul’s words to the Romans ring true this day. We can never gain salvation by limiting our lives by the law or by physical evidence.

The fundamental truth is that we must open our hearts and our minds. The laws provide the structure for growth, not the answers to the questions that lie before us. And if we seek to find answers in the physical evidence (if we seek to know why the wind blows where it chooses or why it makes the sound it does), we will fail. The only way we are going to find the answers is that moment in our life when we open our hearts, our minds, and our soul to the Holy Spirit.

During this season of Lent, we are constantly reminded of our need to repent, to return to God and lead the life He would have us live. We are asked, essentially, to go back to the fundamentals. But the fundamentals are only the starting point.

The fundamental truth is one that we were given that night that Nicodemus sought Jesus. God loves us so much that He sent His only Son that who would ever believe in Him would not perish but gain eternal life. He sent His son to save this world, not condemn it.

It is our choice. We can live in a world restricted by law and a lack of understanding and die. Or, we can follow Jesus and teach what we were taught so that others will know; we can believe and be saved.

What Shall You Say?


This is not my regular post for this week but the events of the week demand that I put something down.

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There was another shooting on a college campus this week.  A young man, for reasons unknown, went into a large classroom and began shooting.  I am glad to know that we are shocked and outraged by this senseless act of violence but, as I wrote after the Virginia Tech shootings last spring (“It Happened Again”),

“why it is so much different when thirty-three people die in a college town in this country as opposed to any number of deaths in Iraq or Darfur or anywhere else. Is it because violence in other countries, the death of young people elsewhere in the world, has no meaning to us? Is violence so much a part of our lives that we can ignore it unless it comes in big numbers?”

Of course, there were only six killed this time,so perhaps we should be grateful.  But there were five other shootings on campuses across this nation last week, including one at a high school in my home town of Memphis.  Perhaps we are shocked when the killings happen on a college campus and not when they happen on a high school campus because we have written off what happens at high schools in this country.

Or we are shocked when it happens in communities where we do not believe violence exists (see “What Do We Say?”).

One good note can be written; we still speak of college campuses as idyllic and peaceful.  There is still somewhere in this nation where we think peace is alive and well.

But now we seek someone to blame.  We will blame the shooter because that is the easiest thing to do.  But we do not know what caused him to do this.  He was an exemplary scholar in high school and as a college undergraduate.  He does not seem to have been a product of the ghetto or a seemingly broken home.  So the reason must lie elsewhere.

We could blame the NRA for their single-minded attitude against reasonable gun control laws.  But the guns the shooter used were legally purchased.

We could blame the medical community.  It appears that this young man was on medication and apparently stopped taking it.  So we could blame the medical community for prescribing medications that complicated a life, not saved it.

We could continue seeking someone or some group on whom we could post the blame.  Surely one of the myriad groups that are part of this society is the reason why this young man did what he did.  But what would we gain by doing that?  It is highly unlikely that this young man, despite his wisdom and intelligence, would have probably known of many of the groups that we could have blamed.

And when we have found the one group upon whom we can fix the blame this time, we then have to figure out how to connect that group to the other shootings that occurred this week.

And then we need to come up with a solution.  We can say that the solution lies in letting those who own guns carry them into the classroom.  That will serve as the necessary deterrent.  But others have echoed what I wrote last April (“It Happened Again – Part 2″) when someone made the same suggestion,

Are we to assume that this unknown self-proclaimed defender has the ability to use his or her weapon in the proper manner? Are we to assume that a response with a handgun to some shooting will not become a “fire fight” which endangers more innocent bystanders? Let’s not even go there; that is a path that can lead no where.

Violence as the response to violence will never work.  It will only lead to more violence.

It is time that we look at ourselves and remember what Cassius told his friend Brutus, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars, but in ourselves. . . ” (Julius Caesar (I, ii,  140 – 141)).  Perhaps it is what we have allowed society to become that is the reason why violence is so dominant in our lives and why we seek violence as the answer to our problems.

We have a disagreement as a country with another country so we go to war.  We dislike what those who oppose our political favorites say and do, so we respond with attack ads.  We fill this ads with vitriol and venom; we come as close to slander as is legally possible; we question the motives of our opponents and threaten their character and their loyalty.

We have changed the games of our youth into businesses where winning is the only thing and how you achieve victory is not to be questioned.  We fought in the 1960’s to bring equality into society but now we have forgotten, if we ever learned, what equality means.  Sexism and racism are still a part of this society and instead of moving away from these plagues on society, it seems we are moving closer.

There are some who are going to rejoice at my words, for these words only prove that these are, in fact, the “End Times.”  But those who proclaim such finality to society only sit back and watch; they do not work to stop what is happening in this world.  I cannot accept the concept that God would send His Son to die on the Cross to save us from our sins and then renege on the promise of hope that comes from that Ultimate Sacrifice.

God sent His Son to save us, not condemn us.  We have been asked to continue the work that began two thousand years ago in the hills of Galilee.  If for no other reason, we need to answer God’s call today and speak out against the violence, speak out against the racism and sexism that exists, speak out against the repression that occurs.  We need to begin doing what Jesus said was His mission, to feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked, find houses for the homeless, and bring hope to the oppressed.  It will not happen overnight but if we began now, we can change the nature and direction of society.  We can bring an end to the violence and destruction that we see; we can make the prophecy of Isaiah and Micah true,

“For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Is. 2:3-4 & Micah 4:2-3)

God has chosen this moment to call us.  What shall you say?

 

60 Excuses for a Closed Mind


Just something to think about

  1. We tried that before.
  2. Our place is different.
  3. It costs too much.
  4. That’s beyond our control.
  5. That’s not my job.
  6. We’re all too busy to do that.
  7. It’s too radical of a change for this group.
  8. We don’t have the time.
  9. There is not enough help.
  10. That will make the other equipment obsolete.
  11. Let’s make a market research test of it first.
  12. Our plant is too small for it.
  13. Not practical for operating people.
  14. The people will never buy it.
  15. The supervisors will scream.
  16. We’ve never done it before.
  17. It’s against company policy.
  18. It runs up our overhead.
  19. We don’t have the authority.
  20. That’s too ivory tower.
  21. Let’s get back to reality.
  22. That’s not our problem.
  23. Why change, it’s still okay.
  24. I don’t like the idea.
  25. You’re right, but. . .
  26. You’re two years ahead of time.
  27. We’re not ready for that idea.
  28. We don’t have the money, the room, the equipment, the personnel, etc.
  29. It isn’t in the budget.
  30. It’s a good thought but highly impractical.
  31. You cannot teach an old dog new tricks.
  32. Let’s hold it in abeyance.
  33. Let’s give it more thought.
  34. Management would never do something like that.
  35. Let’s put it in writing.
  36. We’ll be the laughing stock of the public.
  37. Not that crazy idea again!
  38. We’d lose in the long run.
  39. Where did you dig that one up?
  40. We did all right without it.
  41. That’s what to expect for staff.
  42. It’s never been tried.
  43. Let’s shelve that idea for the moment.
  44. Let’s form a committee.
  45. Has anyone else ever done it?
  46. Division won’t like it.
  47. I don’t see the connection.
  48. It won’t work in our plant.
  49. What are you really saying?
  50. Maybe that will work in your department, but not in mine.
  51. The Employee Involvement Committee will never do it.
  52. Don’t you think we should look into it before we act?
  53. What do they do at our competitor’s plant?
  54. Let’s sleep on it.
  55. It can’t be done.
  56. It’s too much trouble to change.
  57. It won’t pay for itself.
  58. I know a fellow who it tried it.
  59. It’s impossible.
  60. We’ve always done it this way.
  61. And the all time favorite — WE’RE NO WORSE THAN OUR COMPETITORS!

Where Does The Money Go?


Considered the following words:

What can the world, or any nation in it, hope for if no turning is found on this dread road?

The worst to be feared and the best to be expected can be simply stated.

The worst is atomic war.

The best would be this: a life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of strength that defies the American system or the Soviet system or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms in not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.

It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

These words were spoken on April 16, 1953 by President Dwight Eisenhower in a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors (link).  We remember that President Eisenhower also warned us, in 1960, about the developing military-industrial complex and what it could do to our country.  We have ignored what he said in 1960 and we have forgotten what he said inn 1953.

But in these words, spoken at the beginning of his first term, he was speaking of the cost of war.  He put the onus of blame for fear that covered the world in those days on the Soviet Union and their lack of vision for peace in this world.

In the world of its design, security was to be found, not in mutual trust and mutual aid but in force: huge armies, subversion, rule of neighbor nations. The goal was power superiority at all costs. Security was to be sought by denying it to all others.

His references to the cost of war were what we had lost because this country and other free countries of this world found it necessary

. . . to spend unprecedented money and energy for armaments. It forced them to develop weapons of war now capable of inflicting instant and terrible punishment upon any aggressor.

It instilled in the free nations-and let none doubt this-the unshakable conviction that, as long as there persists a threat to freedom, they must, at any cost, remain armed, strong, and ready for the risk of war.

President Eisenhower’s speech was not the speech of a war-monger or a backyard bully but that of a man who had seen the horrors of two world wars and was dedicated to preserving and expanding the peace that followed World War II.

It seems to me that the words that President Eisenhower used to describe the Soviet Union can strangely be applied to this country and its present leaders today.  Yet, the fear that dominated the generation that grew up in the 1950’s is gone; the only fear is a fear that the present administration has created and keeps using to justify the war in Iraq (“if we do not fight them there, they will fight us here.”)

By one estimate, we spend $720 million dollars a day on the war in Iraq (link; another summary of the cost is here).  Now, I have said and written before that if we want to stop war, we must remove the causes.  The money spent in one day for the war would (my thanks to “Shuck and Jive” for the following information):

  • Build 6482 homes for American families
  • Build 84 new elementary schools
  • Provide 34,904 four-year scholarships.
  • Hire 12,478 elementary school teachers
  • Place 95,364 children in Head Start
  • Develop renewable energy in 1,274,336 homes
  • Provide 1,153,846 children with free school lunches
  • Provide 423,529 children with healthcare

Now, this is what it could do in America but the point could and should be made that it could do the same or more around the world.  Would the money that is being spent (and wasted!) on the war in Iraq be better put to use by building the instruments of peace and not the weapons of war?  Would it be better to feed the hungry here in America and around the world?  Would it be better to heal the sick than kill and maim others overseas and have our young come home in a box or without limbs or their sanity?

Each day that the war goes on is another day that money that could be spent for peaceful uses, uses that would deny terrorists need the reasons for their fight.  Each day that the war goes on is money spent and will never be recovered.  Each day that the war goes on, young men and women die or are wounded and the future of society is shorten.

It is time that we learn what the true cost of war is; it is time that we begin spending our resources for peace and growth, not death and destruction.  The cost of war is unfortunately calculable; but so is the cost of peace.  It is time to say that our spending needs to change.